Standard 7: Engagement with Subject Matter
The student teacher demonstrates mastery of the skills and knowledge central to the discipline. Interest in, and energy for, his/her discipline are demonstrated
through the creation of lessons which present diverse students with challenging activities and projects, engage them, and encourage them to solve problems, raise questions, and interact in ways that contribute to a positive learning environment while development skills as critical, inquiring thinkers.
Standard #7: Reflection
This standard is one for which I was both excited and apprehensive because subject matter is at the true core of a history classroom. I learned this summer that it is easy as the teacher to get caught up in classroom management, and lesson plans, and technical difficulties, and feedback, but in the end, you want your students to learn about history and critical thinking skills. There is so much of history that I have never studied, and there will always be something new to learn, which as a perfectionist, scared me a ton. To be up in front of a classroom of students lecturing and talking about a subject you are passionate about and to have the students ask a question to which you don’t know the answer was the most intimidating piece of the classroom for me. I soon learned that it will happen all the time and it is humbling and important for a teacher to say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out for you,” or to encourage the student to look up the information for themselves. There is always something new to learn in history, and I cannot wait for my classroom to learn those things together.
Presenting the subject matter of the American Dream was exciting for my team and I because we ingrained it into the historical content of American history from immigration to the 1960s. Progressing chronologically through history provided us the framework to define the American Dream in different eras and for different people. Because our students came from such different backgrounds and learning levels, we sought to create engaging activities which all of our students would benefit and learn from. For example, with a history of the 1920s, we did a brief direct teacher presentation of the era, but then focused on teaching the skill of sourcing and used multiple advertisements from the Roaring Twenties to exemplify the era.
One specific lecture which I organized was for the Zoot Suit Riots, which we hoped to use to teach our students to critically analyze sources and documents. By taking a piece of history not often covered in history curriculum, we were able to start from the beginning with the event and to ask our students to deduce from the sources and information we gave them, the cause of the riots. To prep for this lesson, I researched many different sources about the riots, as I myself did not have a thorough understanding of them, and then with the necessary background knowledge to lecture, shared the information with my students through images, videos, and primary sources. I was able to fill in the gaps of these documents with my lecturing, but sought to create a more interactive lesson with the other mediums.
With subject matter, I will always have the goal to learn more, but I also need to remember that it is okay to tell my students that I am not as familiar with a specific topic and to encourage them to share their expertise as well. I also need to put myself more into the shoes of a high school student to create more logical transitions from one topic to another. Being a very contextual person, I sometimes overlook that not all of my students will understand how we went from the Roaring Twenties to the Great Depression, or that the era of Civil Rights is not entirely pigeonholed in the 1960s. I hope to learn each year from the questions and inquiries of my students to better my lessons, and to never stop engaging with the material and changing things around. The most unsettling trend for me is when a teacher uses the same PowerPoints and presentations each year without making the appropriate changes to accommodate for the year’s specific class. I seek to be an ever growing and learning teacher who doesn't ever settle for the standard.